Juan Carlos Fomperosa García planned to celebrate his son’s 17th birthday on Thursday. But first, he had to go in for a meeting around 9am with immigration officials in Phoenix, Arizona, for what he believed was to discuss his request for asylum.
“He walked in. An hour later, they brought me a bag with his stuff and that was it,” said Yennifer Sanchez, Fomperosa García’s 23-year-old daughter.
The single father of three US citizens, who entered the country 20 years ago, was detained after meeting with Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials, but never came out, his daughter said, adding that she thought he was safe because he had a work permit.
By Friday morning, Fomperosa García had called his children to let them know he had been deported to Mexico.
Now, Sanchez has become the sole guardian of her 17-year-old brother and 14-year-old sister. She said she plans to continue working as a caregiver and, with the “moral support” of her father, care for her siblings.
“They are going to keep going to school,” Sanchez said of her siblings. “I’m going to work. We’re going to try to get through this.”
To help the family financially, a local organization started fundraising money online. They raised more than $1,300 in less than three hours.
Ayensa Millan, a Phoenix-based immigration attorney who was contacted by Fomperosa García’s family on Thursday, said she wasn’t sure why Fomperosa García had the check-in with Ice officials. She said his asylum request had already been denied “so there was no reason for them to interview him for an asylum claim”.
“It sounds to me like they literally just called him to remove him because of his prior removal order,” Millan said.
In a statement, Ice confirmed Fomperosa García had been deported and that he had been “previously repatriated to Mexico three times, including a formal deportation in 2014”. Last year, he was again ordered removed by an immigration judge and in 2015 was convicted of a federal misdemeanour charge, according to Ice.
“Ice will continue to focus on identifying and removing individuals with criminal convictions who have final orders of removal issued by the nation’s immigration courts,” the statement said.
Fomperosa García’s deportation comes a few weeks after the deportation of Guadalupe García de Rayos, a mother of two US citizens who lived in Arizona for more than two decades. She was also deported after she went in for a check-in with Ice.
But under a new executive order that Donald Trump signed on 25 January, García de Rayos became a priority for deportation. The order states that undocumented immigrants should be deported if they have been charged with any criminal offense. The president said the order was needed “to ensure the public safety of the American people”.
Millan said her advice to undocumented immigrants, especially those with no serious criminal records, is “to not be fearful and to pay close attention to what’s going on”. She noted that most undocumented immigrants who’ve been deported recently had prior orders of removal or had already been found by an immigration judge to not have strong enough merits to be granted a stay in the US.
For undocumented immigrants who’ve become a priority for deportation under Trump’s new executive order and have pending check-ins with Ice, Millan said she advises them to be prepared and get an immigration attorney. Another option is to seek sanctuary at a church.
“I always leave it up my clients’ discretion and tell them these are the immigration consequences,” Millan said. “I tell them, ‘If you are going to stay there and go for the long haul, by all means, do it.’ But it’s up to them because, when people go into sanctuary places, you never know how long they’re going to be there.”
With tears in her eyes, Sanchez said on Friday that her father was nothing like the type of people Trump alludes to when he talks about deporting undocumented immigrants with criminal records.
“When you image people breaking the law, you imagine a scary person,” she said. “You imagine someone who doesn’t care for anyone else. When I hear those words being said about my dad and seeing what type of person he is, it hurts. Criminal would never be a way that I would describe my father.”
Instead, Sanchez said she would use words like “goofball” and “caring” to describe her father, adding that he liked to watch movies, listen to zumba music, dance and make people laugh.
“I know that if he was sitting right here right now, he would be making everyone crack up,” she said